Do fewer cars on the road mean safer streets for cyclists? As many shifted to working from home during 2020, traffic in major cities improved and a surge of cyclists began riding for transit and hobby. On average, there are 74 cyclists fatalities per year in Canada. Despite most Canadian cities implementing some level of emergency bike lanes, and fewer cars on the road, after a preliminary look at the cycling deaths in major Canadian cities it seems not much has changed.
A study in Australia found that during lockdown cyclist fatalities across Australia increased by 29 per cent. The researchers believe this increase is possibly due to, “a substantial increase in cycling during the COVID period.” While this may also be the case in Canada, as the city of Toronto says on its Vision Zero report: “No loss of life as a result of traffic collisions is acceptable in a Vision Zero approach.”
In Toronto, three cyclists were killed in 2020, all within two months. In total, 22 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in the city (not including the GTA) this year. Though pedestrian fatalities fell from 39 to 19, cyclist deaths remained consistent with the last four years, despite the city’s efforts to add new bike lanes. All three cyclists were killed while riding on major streets commonly used by local commuters.
Montreal has not yet released any 2020 data, but we know that at least one cyclist died this year due to a collision with a pedestrian. Last year, there no cyclists were killed riding in Montreal, an exciting statistic but one that should be taken with a grain of salt, according to Suzanne Lareau, CEO of Vélo Québec. “You have to put it in perspective because these are little numbers from year to year,” she says. “Just because we have a year with no deaths we can’t say ‘that’s it, the problem is solved.'”
In Vancouver, official numbers are not yet available but at least two cyclists were killed, including a 39-year-old cyclist in Pitt Meadows and a 29-year-old Port Coquitlam man. Just outside of Vancouver 24-year-old Daphné Toumbanakis had just started a cross-country journey when she was struck and killed by the driver of a pick-up truck.
At least three cyclists were killed in riding in Calgary this year.
According to Manitoba Public Insurance, on average two cyclists die each year. Reduced traffic did not change that number and at least two were killed this year, both in their 50s.